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ASK THE TEACHERS

Q: How do we retain passion in life and still follow the teaching that we should accept all of life with equanimity?

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Entries in Ask the Teachers (6)

Tuesday
May132014

Ask the Teachers

Zenkei Blanche Hartman, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, and Narayan Helen Liebenson

Q: I don’t identify exclusively with any one Buddhist tradition but rather find it helpful to learn from various ones, such as Zen, Vajrayana, Theravada, and Pure Land. Sometimes I’m criticized for not focusing solely on one tradition, but I don’t see what the problem is. Why shouldn’t we make the most of this incredible opportunity to learn from the many Buddhist traditions that have come to the West? After all, I even see Buddhist teachers studying with teachers outside of their tradition.

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Tuesday
Feb182014

Ask the Teachers

Zenkei Blanche Hartman, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, and Narayan Helen Liebenson

Q: I was raised a Christian and taught that there is an eternal soul that leaves the body upon death and goes to heaven or hell. While I am now a Buddhist practitioner, my early religious upbringing has remained a problem. My logical brain tells me there must be something that animates a being and leaves the body when it dies; after all, one can tell the difference between a corpse and a living being.

In the Theravada tradition, we have the Jataka tales that describe Gautama’s previous lives. In the Zen tradition, Jiyu-Kennett Roshi describes her former lives in her autobiography, The Wild, White Goose. In the Vajrayana tradition of Tibet, there is the tulku tradition with the intentional reincarnation of realized beings such as the Dalai Lama.

Please help me understand the Buddhist concept of what is reborn or reincarnated. What is it that is never born yet never dies? Is it consciousness? Awareness? Is it empty? It seems like an eternal soul to me.

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Tuesday
Nov122013

Ask The Teachers

Zenkei Blanche Hartman, Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, and Narayan Helen Liebenson

Q: I’ve been meditating every day for years, and now if I skip a day, I notice that I start to feel crazy and inhuman. It’s hard to believe that I spent so much of my life in this state before I took up my practice. Is it possible that meditation can become addictive, with withdrawal symptoms that make life harder than it would be for someone who doesn’t meditate at all?

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Thursday
Sep012005

Ask the Teachers

Narayan Liebenson Grady: If you were to choose not to get married, do you think that would do away with the question of attachment? There are charming stories about monks being attached to their one bowl or the color of their robe. Some of us are quite attached to our teachers. One can even be attached to the concept of renunciation. As you can see, whatever form we choose, it’s not so easy. We are adepts at clinging. Attachment is the problem, not the object of our attachment. Sometimes people try to deal with the suffering of attachment by avoiding commitment. This is called fear, not liberation. In this case, the point is not to let go of your partner but of the suffering that arises because of wrong understanding.

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Tuesday
Mar012005

Ask the Teachers

I’ve been practicing in the Theravada tradition for six years. About seven years ago I was diagnosed with dysthymia (chronic mild depression), which occasionally escalates into full-blown depression. About two and a half years ago I began taking antidepressant medication to control the deeper depressive episodes. The first medication I tried helped for a while and then seemed to quit. The one I’m using now keeps the deep depression at bay but I think it’s destroying my mind. I’m finding it difficult to concentrate, my memory is deteriorating, and I’m becoming somewhat apathetic.

My state of mind is interfering with my meditation practice. My doctor wants me to give the medication another three months but I’m afraid my mind will become mush and there will be no hope for my enlightenment in this life.

Since becoming a Buddhist, I’ve wanted to ordain in the Theravada tradition and devote the remainder of my life to intensive practice. But I’m married. I’m also concerned that my current state of mind would lead to failure as a monastic. Any ideas?

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Wednesday
Dec012004

Ask the Teachers

A few years ago I discovered a book called Mind Development by Ven. Phra Tepvisuddhikavi. I began to study and practice its teachings on anapanasatibhavana, mindfulness based on breathing. With my first effort I was able to achieve one-pointedness and the resulting ecstacy (piti) to an intense degree. However I did not maintain a regular practice habit, and usually limited my practice to thirty minutes per session. I now find it more difficult to develop one-pointedness and often fall asleep. What is it that I am doing, or not doing, that I can no longer develop meditation as I had in the beginning? I’ve tried meditation with my eyes open but feel somewhat distracted. I am more interested in the shamatha aspects of the practice. Can you please help me find that one-pointedness that I found so easy at the beginning?

Tulku Thondup: There are two aspects to every Buddhist meditation: letting our mind dwell one-pointedly, like a mountain, when we are focusing on any meditative field, and seeing whatever we are meditating on as it truly is. The first aspect is tranquility (shamatha); the second, insight (vipashyana).

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